RPA Industry Insights from the AI & RPA World Summit 2018
In June this year professionals from the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) industry gathered for the 3rd Annual AI and RPA Summit in Berlin for 3 days of insight, discussion and debate. This ‘go-to’ event in the RPA and AI calendar was attended by leading businesses across the globe. Martin Ruane, ENGIE’s Programme Director for RPA, offers insights from the summit.
RPA is software that copies a users' actions on any application to create an automated process. AI or Cognitive software uses inference-based algorithms to process structured and unstructured data to provide probabilistic outcomes, e.g. Chatbots. ENGIE were an early adopter of RPA technology in 2014, and have since secured two UK national awards for using this innovative technology for the benefit of our customers.
Growth of RPA
There is no doubt that RPA has gained real traction within businesses, with over 80% of companies represented at the conference at the ‘Incubation’ stage (accelerated learning) or ‘Centre of Excellence’ (established maturity) stages of the maturity model. On attending last year’s conference, less than half had been at these more advanced stages. The latest research now shows that over 70% of top businesses are adopting RPA technology.
Yet, RPA has not thus-far had a significant impact in terms of the disruption promised. Judging from the conference, RPA is currently impacting a fraction of roles that could be in scope: probably less than 2%. It is still taking many adopters 12-18 months to get to real grips with RPA due to the complexities of installing these processes.
One would think that this complexity would create opportunities for the competing supplier community to reduce this complexity. Perhaps, the industry’s attempts towards RPA consumerism will be a game changer? Certainly, the move towards the availability of open source, ready-to-use Bots is an interesting one.
Most RPA efforts are aimed at Shared Services business functions. Some predict future technological developments in AI and cognitive technology could mean an end to the work carried out in these administrative hubs, but this is a speculative observation at this stage.
RPA Development Skills
Like ENGIE, most organisations have followed a Centre of Excellence model, with expert resources and intelligent collateral centralised. This allows synergies to be leveraged.
RPA skills appears to be one of the biggest challenges with two key developments in the market:
- Some organisations are supplementing RPA developer resource with external consultant or agency resource, which is pushing up the costs of development.
- Rather than the new technology leading to a demise in off-shoring (which some had predicted), some organisations are now establishing low cost development hubs oversees.
This global skills shortage will only continue as the market grows so a skills and retention strategy should be high on any RPA shopping list. ENGIE's approach to skills and retention has significantly reduce attrition in a market where this is a high risk.
Most teams who deploy RPA prove their worth through FTE savings or providing capacity back to the business. The bigger challenge is quantifying opportunity cost savings and other non-financial benefits. Most Chief Financial Officers have looked to RPA technology for good old-fashioned savings.
So if you want to meet the CFO's expectations, the most successful organisations in adopting RPA are those which have persuaded their Senior Management Team of its merits and they in turn are fully in support. If you get the Managing Director to back RPA as a strategic priority, deploying an RPA programme is that bit easier.
ENGIE is a leading energy and services company focused on three key activities: production and supply of energy, facilities management and regeneration. Our 17,000 employees combine these capabilities for the benefit of individuals, businesses and communities throughout the UK & Ireland.
We enable customers to embrace a lower carbon, more efficient and increasingly digital world. Our customers benefit from our energy efficient and smart building solutions, the provision of effective and innovative services, the transformation of neighbourhoods through regeneration projects, and the supply of reliable, flexible and renewable energy.
ENGIE utilises RPA technology as part of its wider digitisation strategy: resulting in improvements in customer service through reductions in lead times and improvements in quality. In 2015 ENGIE introduced RPA into its contract with North Tyneside Council – the first of its kind for a local authority. Its purpose was to create a virtual back office workforce to improve service quality and consistency, while achieving greater efficiencies and reductions in costs. ENGIE then launched an RPA Centre of Excellence at the end of 2016. ENGIE also set up an RPA team to offer a service within the business, to transition 200 processes to its digital workforce to deliver £10m of business benefits over 5 years.